The Lahore Literary Festival returns to London
28 October 2017

lahore literary festival

London’s celebration of all things subcontinent continues with one of the biggest highlights of Lahore’s annual cultural calendar, the Lahore Literary Festival, which travels to the UK for its second outing this October.

This year’s LLF London will focus primarily on the pre and post-partition era and the subsequent evolution of Pakistan, both as an independent state and a nation. The one-day programme will be hosted, like last year, at the British Library. Some of its highlights are below, and the full schedule is here.

Lahore, Pakistan’s own geostrategic melting pot of vibrant cultures and contrasting identities, is central to the theme of the programme. A opening panel includes Professor Yasmin Khan, author of The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, which is often argued to be one of the most incisive books on partition. Acclaimed architect Nayyar Ali Dada will feature in a discussion about the pre-partition vision for Lahore, and the ways in which that has and hasn’t been realised.

Another eminent writer on partition, Urvashi Butalia once wrote, “it took 1984 (referring to the anti-Sikh pogroms in Delhi) to make me understand how ever-present partition was in our lives too, to recognise that it could not be so easily put away inside the covers of history books. I could no longer pretend that this was a history that belonged to another time, to someone else.

This begs the question about how the horror, the bloodshed of partition – the stories of which are still being uncovered – should be remembered. Writers Kamila Shamsie (author of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted Home Fire), Tahmima Anam (winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for her debut book A Golden Age) and Mirza Waheed (also a New York Times and Guardian journalist) will reflect.

Hyderabadi dum biryani or Karachi’s street-style? An age-old question that may or may not be broached in a session with the queen of curries, Madhur Jaffrey and Pakistani food writer Sumayya Usmani (who we wrote about here). They will talk about the place of food in South Asian culture, and its role as a means to defining identity, and finding cross-cultural affinity and enrichment.

Professor Shehnaz Ismail, Dean of the Faculty of Design at Karachi’s Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) and responsible for nurturing a generation of artists and creatives, will explore the region’s indigenous crafts. Artist Adeela Suleman (whose stunning work on the ways in which beauty is inserted into violence and war What Dreams May Come is currently on show at the Manchester Art Gallery) and Professor Ashok Chatterjee from Ahmedabad will join her in discussing the influence and persistence of Pakistani crafts in contemporary art and design.

Long overdue for some litfest attention in the UK is Ismat Chughtai, revolutionary, feminist, and pioneer of the bold, outspoken Urdu short story. The perfectly titled panel Urdu Language’s Uncivil Woman will discuss her life and work. If, rightly, you already can’t wait to know more, see this excellent piece by writer and daughter of Faiz Ali Faiz Muneeza Hashmi, (who’ll also be in attendance at London LLF) in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper here.

Later on in the afternoon, Pakistan’s representative to the UN, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi will join Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and author Christina Lamb in talking about Pakistan at 70, and what its future holds.

Ghazal singer Tina Sani will bring the day to a close with a performance of classical and semi-classical singing. An admirer of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry (she’s called them “verses of hope. Verses that lead me to believe in myself, to speak up, to rise against injustice. In short, poetry with a cause.”), Tina Sani is distinct in her musical ways and has managed to remain relevant despite changing times.


When: Saturday 28 October 2017, 9am start

Where: Knowledge Centre, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Admission: £40 (concessions available)

More info and to book: The British Library


By Nida A. Hasan. Nida is a Pakistani journalist living in the UK, and a strong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. She hopes to one day destroy the silken curtain of prejudice against women in Pakistan through her writing. She loves photography and has declared food to be her eternal soulmate.


Posted on 19 October 2017

Photo courtesy Lahore Literary Festival

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